Faculty, students recount personal tales of immigration; highlight value of diversity
UC Davis students, faculty and members of the Davis community gathered on the Quad on Feb. 9 to display their solidarity with those directly affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.
In light of the recent executive order, universities across the country have organized similar rallies with the uniting objective of “Academics United — No Visa and Immigration Ban.” Nazanin Akrami and Ellie White — both graduate students at UC Davis in cooperation with SEDAD, the Iranian graduate student association — were the organizers of this peaceful rally.
The event was approximately an hour long, d
uring which participants were prepared with rain ponchos, umbrellas and signs that displayed slogans such as “Love not hate makes the nation great” and “No ban, No wall, No Trump, No fear.” It received publicity on multiple news platforms, including Fox 40 and CBS Sacramento.
Akrami said that her goal for the event was “to start a conversation about diversity in order to feel more connected and help people going through these issues.”
The rally showcased many speakers ranging from graduate students, to faculty members, to Mayor Robb Davis, whose speech was titled “My Home Towns Are Home to the World.”
In his speech the mayor stressed the importance of “proclaiming ourselves a sanctuary city” and “welcoming people from all over the world.”
“They have an order that capriciously excludes people from seven nations at the stroke of a pen, including the victims of wars that have grown in the soil where our nation soiled the seeds of societal destruction in the name of freedom,” Davis said. “This affects all of us because it fundamentally puts into question what feels real and natural and beautiful to us. It offends our cultural values.”
Dr. Banafsheh Sadeghi, an assistant professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine, delivered an emotionally-charged speech about her personal experience with the executive order.
Sadeghi discussed the fear of entering the unknown as a result of immigration, in addition to the psychological and emotional tolls of making sacrifices for “following a path that leads to a better world.”
Furthermore, she expressed the grief she felt when she was forced to choose between staying with her children in America or visiting her mother in her home country of Iran the week the executive order was put into effect. She went on to discuss how crucial it is to maintain “love and compassion” in such politically turbulent and tense times.
Additionally, Koen Van Rompay, a recipient of the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community, and Wesley Young, director of services for international students and scholars, both delivered talks on the priceless value of international ties.
Akrami and graduate students Hossein Karimi and Abdolhossein Edalati also shared stories of both triumph and struggle as a result of immigration and the consequences of the ban.
White read a statement on behalf of physics professor, Mohammad H. Hamidian, who was unable to be present at the rally.
In his statement Hamidian recounted the story of his immigration to Canada as a war refugee during his childhood and later to the U.S. as a student. His statement expressed his concerns for the “fading opportunities of future immigrant professors, artists, musicians, engineers and teachers” and how they may not have the chance to “be safe and reach their potential in a society with so many opportunities.”
On a lighter note, he concluded with having “immense hope in the outpouring support and generosity of the people in this country.”
UC Davis Yassi Mostafavi, a second-year political science and English double major, and Ariana Abedifard, a second-year environmental policy analysis and planning major, both felt closely connected with the speeches given at the rally.
“As an Iranian, it’s heartwarming to see that people are coming out to support those affected by this terrible executive order, these are not the principles this country was founded on,” Mostafavi said.
Abedifard said Sadeghi’s speech resonated with her in the sense that “you have two homes, and it is hard to decide between the two and pick an identity, and things like [the immigration ban] make it even harder.”
Written by: Kimia Akbari — firstname.lastname@example.org